Alex MClain-All in for Rio

When you think of elite level athletes, it's not hard to envision a predatory breed comprised of equal parts superhuman physicality matched with an imposing demeanor, fearsome enough to impress the likes of Mike (Da Bears) Ditka. 

26 Year old Alex McLain does not fit the latter archetype.  Her cheerfully sweet disposition belies her aggressive style on the water. 

Father far left. Mother far right.

Father far left. Mother far right.

Born to a sporting family, Mclain comes from paddling royalty. Her father, Rod Mclain, competed for the United States in the 84 and 88 Olympics in sprint canoe. Her mother, also an avid paddler was enroute to trying out for the Olympic kayak team as well when she became pregnant. 

...and today

...and today

Her double blade experience began in the cold waters of coastal Maine in 2005 at the young age of sixteen. She soon gained comfort on the waves, tackling increasingly bouncy conditions inherent to the rocky coastline. She developed a love of the water through finding the balance of working with the energy of the waves. 

She soon began racing and racking up wins in New England, including a win at the prestigious New York City Mayor's Cup. At nineteen years old she made her way to the big water of the U.S. Surfski Championships in San Francisco, finishing second in 2008 behind the venerated Nikki Mocke.  The strong placing served as notice to Mclain that she might have what it takes to take her love of the sport to the next level, or at least make a go.

on the waves

on the waves

So in 2011 she shifted her focus towards sprint kayaking. Initially, she felt a bit like the Happy Gilmore of K1; a ski paddler messing about with sprinters. However, she soon found purchase in the sprint world, culminating in a 2014 Pan American victory in the 1000 meter in Mexico. 

Currently, the ultimate goal of representing the United States in the Olympics has become her primary focus.  In preparation for a run at Rio, she is on the water putting in an incredibly grueling nine hours a day for six days a week. 

While fully focused on making it to the Olympics in sprint kayak, she sees a return to surfski afterwards. But as of yet, has no specific goals set beyond 2016.

Best of luck Alex-we look forward to your return to the waves after Rio.


Hometown: Stockton Springs, Maine.

Current Residence: Gainesville, Georgia (when not travelling).

Notable Wins: Pan American 1000 Meter, New York Mayor's Cup, 2nd US Surfski Championships, New England Overall Series Winner, North Shore 2015.

Club: Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak 

College: Bowdoin

Field of Study/Degree: Biology

Hobbies/Interests/Feats of strength: Art, Lacrosse.


Braxton Carter


South Dakotan Braxton Carter began fishing off kayaks seven years ago.  After having a go at an area race in his fishing kayak, he decided to have another shot in a faster boat, this time in a 24 inch wide sea kayak.  

In the natural progression of those with competitive juices in full flow, he soon opted for pure speed and found his way to the surfski; a Stellar SES.  Remarkably, within a week and a half of buying the narrow, 16.5 inch wide SES, Carter used it in the 50 mile Fort to Field race-finishing the full course and only taking one swim!  

Braxton prefers long distance marathon racing and has competed in 32, 50, 72 and 340 mile long races. He realized he would need a more stable boat to compete in his preferred long distance events and has since switched to a Stellar SEI, a Fenn Mako XT and an Epic V7.


He is currently prepping for 2016 by logging miles with others in the nearby paddling community from the South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Association and at the Sioux Falls Whitewater Park. 

One of his primary goals for the coming year is to compete in a proper ocean race as well as continue to improve his standings at regional events.



Age: 27

Years Paddling: 7

Education: Business Administration and Automotive Technology

Employment: Insurance/Investments

Ultimate Paddling Destination: Tarifa Spain

Palmarès:  Dam and Back Challenge-Course Record

           MR340 finisher in first attempt





Catching Up With Oscar Chalupsky

SN:  Tell us what you’ve been up to since moving to Nelo? 

OC: Just like all start ups, which Nelo Surfski is, it takes time to get the perfect product out as well as getting all the fitting to work perfectly. At Nelo, we try and test everything a few times over. I have also been doing a few races in Europe and the odd clinic, but can only go big once we have launched our complete range. 

SN:  Nelo has dominated the sprint market, what will it take for Nelo to become a major player in the ski world? 

OC: I would say we will keep on growing faster than other brands so over time we would like to get there but it will take a while just like it did in the sprint kayak world

SN: Can we expect to see a complete redesign of Nelo Surfskis or just slight tweaks? 

OC: Yes, complete changes but still keeping the lookand feel of the Nelo brand. I would say they are more stable and have more comfortable buckets and footwells. I have kept the length which is a game changer. 

SN:  Haven’t seen your name at many of the races in the past year, are you taking time off? 

Oscar and Herman Chalupsky

Oscar and Herman Chalupsky

OC:  The only big race I did was the Nelo Summer Challenge, which I came in 10th. I couldn’t really go to races until I have Nelo boats in all the race venues.  I will be racing in Cape Town on the 12-13th of December. I have transported a surfski there.  I hope that I will do the full program next year with our new Nelo surfskis. 

SN: You’ve been taking stabs at catching waves at Nazare.   What has inspired this utter madness? 

OC: I have always loved catching waves in my surfski. I spoke with Garrett Macnamarra and Grant Twiggy Baker about how to go about it. I have most everything sorted for next time. The break is very huge and it is a bit scary. It looks so small from the cliffs, but when you're out there it is huge. 

Oscar at Nazare. 21 foot ski dwarfed

Oscar at Nazare. 21 foot ski dwarfed

SN:  You’ve been in the game as long as anyone.  Where do you currently see the sport going? 

OC: It has been my life since about 8 years old. I designed my first surfski in 1977.  I would hope it is evolving even if there are lot of guys that copy each other. I think it is growing with new young paddlers coming over from SUP.  I think it is growing world wide with Europe having the biggest growth.

The USA is also growing very fast with the new plastic surfskis. There is a huge outdoor population that will find out about surfski paddling, they are coming from SUP which is big in the USA and not so big in Europe. 

SN: After years of traveling, racing and promoting the sport, do you still find the same motivation to get out on the water or has it changed over time? 

OC:   It is funny, my motivation hasnt ever waned at all. I have to train, so that I can eat and drink as much as I want. I still feel I can win races if I have some decent winds. I am back on the water and I would like to make 2016 a big year in paddling. I might do more clinics in Porto which is a lot easier then Durban where I used to live. Porto has some of the best downwind and flat water paddling in the world to teach surfski paddling. Just check out the Nelo Douro Academy, and the other  Nelo training centres. I have become great friends with Nelo himself and I am really enjoying seeing him getting so enthusiast about surfski paddling. He is getting better all the time and his smile when he catches a run is something that keeps him and me going. He is a real competitor and I am sure he will keep improving so that we see him in some surfski races next year. 

SN:   More stable boats have brought many new paddlers to the sport, do you see any other upcoming trends in boat design creating a similar surge in popularity?  

OC: Yes, stability before ability has been my saying all along. If you can jump on and paddle the first time you will get hooked. Confidence builds success. 

SN:  You've invested time and energy into the Epic brand; can you talk about the process of making the decision to move on?

OC:  I  didnt agree on the way forward so I went my separate way.  It was difficult, as I did build a great brand.  Maybe similar to Kelly Slater and Quicksilver.

Oscar and Laird Hamilton

Oscar and Laird Hamilton

SN: Absolute best moment on the Ski? 

OC: I would say winning my first Molokai and my 12th. 

SN: Absolute worst? 

SN: I wouldnt say worst, and there are lots of them, but losing a race when I knew I was faster but made a tactical error, that to me is the worst. Come in 10th when you tried the best is actually not that bad.  

SN: Nearest disaster? 

OC: Actually not too many, but breaking my ski 3 km off shore and having to swim in wasnt fun.  I had a huge shark swimming after me which was scary. I have been in huge surfs in Durban and broken a few surfski’s in half trying to get in or out through the surf.

Pam Boteler


Photo courtesy of Jeff Lipsky

Boteler-in-action. Photo courtesy of Brian Donnelly

Pam in Itacare, Bahia, Brazil

Pam in Itacare, Bahia, Brazil

Pam Boteler, of the Washington Canoe Club in Washington, DC, is a world-class athlete and advocate who has been making waves in her sport since 2000. She made USA Canoe/Kayak history at the 2000 National Championships by becoming the first woman to compete in sprint canoe – against the men, and won gold and bronze medals. She continued to race against the men in 2001, winning gold in the Men’s C4 (4 person canoe). Finally, in 2002, influenced by her success on the water and lobbying off the water, USA Canoe/Kayak changed its by-laws to allow women to compete at the National Championships in events of their own – in all age and boat categories. Finally, U.S. women sprint canoeists had a league of their own.

Listen to her 2013 radio interview on Women Warriors Blog Radio (starts at 5:45).  
and her August 2014 interview with “Who Are You ?  The Life Lessons in Sports” .

 Pam was inspired into sprint canoe in 1999 by Canadian pioneer and legend Sheila Kuyper. That image of a powerful and graceful woman in a “man’s canoe” has been a driver and primary catalyst for her working tirelessly – on and off the water – to pave the way for women of all ages to follow and pursue their dream of training and competing within their own club, their own country, in their own events, and for their country in international competition, and ultimately the Olympic Games. And she has done this while working a full-time job for the U.S. Federal Government.

As an athlete and President of WomenCAN International, Pam has worked tirelessly since 2000 as a global voice for inclusion of women's canoe events and equality for women in Olympic Canoeing,a dream which could become reality for Tokyo 2020.
She serves as a role-model for women to pursue their Olympic dream and desire to compete nationally and internationally, regardless of age, gender, ability, or socio-economic background. She also inspires us to do the very things which we think we cannot do – and to give a hand back to others to help them pursue their dreams.

            Career Highlights Canoe Sprint 2000-2010:

  • First woman in the U.S. to compete at the U.S. National Championships in sprint canoe (2000), competing against the men. Gold and Bronze medals
  • First woman to compete at the U.S. National Marathon Canoe/Kayak Trials (30K) in sprint canoe, competing against the men (2002 & 2003) and first woman (and only known woman) in the world to compete in an ICF sanctioned marathon event in C1. Women are still prohibited from competing at the Canoe Marathon World Championships.
  • Participated in 3 World Championships (2003, 2009, 2010) and 5 Pan American Championships (2001, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2010)
  • 11 international medals
  • 32 U.S. National Championships medals – undefeated in the women’s C1 1000m event.   Undefeated in women’s C1 500 & 200m events 2000-2008.

Current Paddling:  Washington Canoe Club (Washington DC) – Hawaiian Outrigger Canoeing, marathon canoe and surfski.

Pam Boteler's work for the Department of Defense Executive Leadership Development Program:

Recommendations for Helping Recovering Service Members Achieve Renewed Sense of Purpose, Independence, Dignity, Passion for Life, and Confidence for Enhanced Long-term Quality of Life

Pam Boteler:

WomenCan International:


Erik Borgnes_The Fastest Chattajack


SN: Congratulations on your Chattajack win  (course record-4:00:09-ed).

EB:  Thanks it was a really nice event.  I always like to do one long race at the end of the season and the Chattajack was perfect. Eric Mims and I had a nice paddle together for the first hour and a half and then we sort of simply drifted apart while we were weaving around all the SUP traffic.  I hoped that we'd regroup mid-race, but either I sped up or he slowed a bit. I have to add that It's always a pleasure to paddle with Eric Mims as he's a true gentleman sportsman out on the water.

SN:  How did you get your start on the surfski?

EB:  Around 1994 I started sea kayaking for fitness. I soon found that paddling a sea kayak  wasn’t really suitable for working on fitness as the boats were just too wide and inefficient. Some years later, I was living in Washington state and happened onto a vibrant multi-sport racing scene; all the competitive athletes were paddling these skinny, fast surfskis, so I found my way into one around 1998.  I soon found that I enjoyed the paddling component of the multi-sport races more than the other disciplines, so I started to pursue it more seriously.  It took me awhile to get comfortable on the tippy boats but I continued after it and eventually started to put it together. 

SN:  Did you have any Fast guys to learn from?

EB: Yes, I was pretty lucky to have frequent contact with paddlers that included: Greg Barton, John DePalma, and Shaun Koos.

SN: Those are fast guys.

EB: Yes, they crushed me.  I learned early on that paddling was as much about technical efficiency as it was about fitness so I focused on learning the most efficient methods of training and paddling and continually being around that kind of group really helped me along.

SN:  Can you tell us about some of your race history?

EB: I’ve finished the Molokai channel race three times, finished 6th overall at the U.S. Championships both in '04 and '08, won Blackburn, Run of the Charles, The Phatwater, plus several other larger races on the west coast.  In 2001, I paddled K2 with Shaun Koos at the ICF Marathon Kayak Worlds in England.  We didn't do that well, but we didn't embarrass ourselves.

SN: What about more recently?  Have you maintained a busy race schedule?

EB: I get in about 6 races a year now with most in the upper midwest.  It gets tough to travel to races now because I feel so guilty leaving my wife and three kids for any length of time at all - though they don't miss me at all when I'm gone. 

SN:  How often do you train?

EB: About Three times a week in the boat, and then once or twice doing something else like a short run or bike ride.

SN: Wow! That’s it?  You were serious about finding the most effective training method.

EB: That's every masters athlete's goal, I would think - trying to get the most out of your limited training time.  I have a one mile lake and a 400 meter lake close to home that I've spent most of my time training on over the past three years.

SN:  400 meters?  That’s incredible! 

EB: I guess the smaller one is more of a pond.  But it's deep! Then, once every other week, I will travel to a larger lake or large river to do a long endurance session .

SN: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.  Look forward to seeing you at next years Chattajack.


Residence:  Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Occupation: Physician-Radiology

Children: Three

Surfski:  Epic V10 Gt (sponsored athlete).




Sharing his paddles with the gators.   

Sharing his paddles with the gators.


The Bayou


Jimmy has been paddling kayaks for about 7 years.  He found his way to paddling the way many people seem to -- looking for a great physical outlet that can be enjoyed without so much risk of injury.  He was previously a weight lifter but after suffering a shoulder injury, he took up marathon running.  This too led to injury and interruption of his fitness endeavors.  It was then that he found kayaking.

Initially he began his paddle adventures on a 14 foot, plastic sit-on-top kayak.  He paddled this boat in his home town of Lafayette, Louisiana for about two years, during which time he came to love his time on the water.  He upgraded his boat to a 17 foot sea kayak.  At that time he started doing a few races.  Notably he took first place on his sea kayak at Battle on the Bayou in 2012.  He also participated in Bluz Cruz -- a 22 mile race down the Mississippi River.

After paddling the sea kayak for about a year, he upgraded to an Epic V8 surfski.  He found it to be faster and hassle-free and has been paddling it since.  As a “lifelong” cajun, he paddles on the Vermillion River (actually a bayou), and Bayou Teche.  He loves the remote area where he lives and paddles and enjoys the wildlife along the bayous, especially the alligators.  As his paddling skills increase, he is working on transitioning to an Epic V10 Sport soon.

As the owner and operator for 25 years of the Hub City Diner in Lafayette (one of the top ten diners in all of Louisiana) , Jimmy understands hospitality.  He finds unmatched hospitality in the paddle community and enjoys the camaraderie with other paddlers.  As he says, “some of these people you paddle with, you see only once or twice a year, but it is always like meeting a long-lost friend.”  The generosity of the paddle community is demonstrated in an experience Jimmy had at the Bluz Cruz in 2014.  On the night before the race, the owner of the bed and breakfast where he was staying approached Jimmy at 8:30 p.m. while Jimmy was eating dinner to tell him that a 150 year old oak tree on the property randomly split and crashed down on his vehicle holding his V8.  The tree had split his boat in two.  By 10:00 p.m. that evening, Jimmy had already received four offers of boats to borrow for the race the next day!

Next time you are in the Lafayette area, stop by and see Jimmy at Hub City Diner, or find him paddling on the bayous!